Ukraine invasion leaves Greece with grave fears on two fronts

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had serious repercussions in two areas of Greece’s economy and political status that seem unrelated but are in fact equally worrying when it comes to long-term political relations. term.

Greece’s support for EU sanctions against Russia has resulted in the cancellation of Russian tourism to Greece and Cyprus. After experiencing exponential growth in tourism from Russia in recent years (nearly 600,000 travelers in 2019, spending more than 400 million euros), Greece was anticipating 300,000 visitors from Russia this year, mainly in Russian stations.

Instead, these tourists are expected to travel to Turkey, Egypt, Tunisia, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam.

Greek politicians fear Russia’s unilateral invasion of Ukraine could encourage Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to emulate that aggression

Cyprus too will suffer from the loss of Russian tourists. The longtime Russian ambassador to Cyprus, Stanislav Osadchiy, spoke unequivocally, and his words could just as well apply to Greece: “We are not worried about economic sanctions. I think the Europeans are shooting themselves in the foot. Russian tourists will not come. Where will these tourists go? They will go to Turkey; you want that? They will spend money there.

The loss of income for the Greek economy is very serious. But Greek politicians are equally – if not more – concerned that Russia’s unilateral invasion of Ukraine could encourage Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to emulate that aggression by attempting to regain the eastern Aegean islands, which were attributed to Greece in international treaties between 1923 and 1947. .

vital islands

Erdogan demanded the cancellation of these treaties, saying the islands (which include Lesbos, Chios, Samos, Icaria, Lemnos and Samothrace) are part of Turkey’s “blue homeland”. From a financial point of view, these are vital for the continued economic survival of Turkey as they are based on huge deposits of gas and oil.

Given that Turkey’s illegal invasion of Northern Cyprus in 1974 was never disputed, and continues to this day in the so-called “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus”, the Greek government’s concern over to a Turkish invasion of its islands, inspired by Vladimir Putin’s policy of invading Ukraine, is not unreasonable.

While 300,000 is a small proportion of the 34 million visitors in 2019, Greece has struggled during the pandemic to regain those numbers

Meanwhile, a 21-vehicle convoy carried 82 ethnic Greeks out of the war zone surrounding the city of Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine. The deaths of at least 10 Greeks in Mariupol, where a community of around 120,000 ethnic Greeks have existed since the 18th century, has sparked intense anti-Russian sentiments.

Greece has offered to create 50,000 jobs for Ukrainian refugees in the hospitality sector, many of whom would most likely be Pontian Greeks, who lived around the Black Sea region in southern Ukraine. Although most Greeks historically lived in or near Mariupol on the Sea of ​​Azov, others fled the anti-Communist purge that followed the 1945-48 Greek Civil War to live in Ukraine and Crimea.

Decrease of the pandemic

Ironically, however, it is precisely the hospitality sector that will suffer from the loss of Russian tourists. While 300,000 is a small proportion of the 34 million visitors in 2019, Greece has struggled during the pandemic to regain those numbers. If and when the Ukrainian crisis is over, the construction of Russian tourism will have to start again. Greece can ill afford a decline in markets where it had made significant gains until the start of the pandemic.

There are also very significant Russian investments in Greek real estate and the tourism industry. With a strong Russian and American naval presence in Greek waters as the Ukrainian crisis remains volatile, the congruence of economic and political concerns is becoming increasingly acute.

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